It’s that time of the week again, where we delve into the human brain and talk about all the wonderful, weird and quirky things that the brain can do. This week we’re going to talk about something that is often very misrepresented in the media, in books, in movies, and in general everyday life and that’s PTSD.
“PTSD, or Post-traumatic stress disorder, is a mental disorder that can develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event.”
PTSD can also be referred to as, complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) or Acute stress reaction, a short-term condition which could develop into PTSD. With the most common representation of PTSD being war veterans who have experienced extremely traumatic events but what if you haven’t been shot at or been to war?
Well, there’s actually a few ways that the brain can cognitively malfunction, resulting in PTSD or C-PTSD. A serious accident, living in a war zone as a victim/soldier, sexual assault, serious physical assault, and seeing someone hurt or murdered are all things that commonly lead to PTSD if the events aren’t mentally dealt with. Risk factors of developing PTSD or C-PTSD involve; repeated trauma (could be something as simple as an emotionally abusive loved one to a physically abusive loved one), a past history of trauma or abuse in early childhood, additional life stresses after the trauma, such as the loss of a loved one, home, or even a job. Further factors to consider include the type of traumatic event, and the degree of social/mental health support.
So now you know how PTSD can occur let’s talk about what actually happens to a person experiencing the logical symptoms of PTSD or C-PTSD. An article published by Viatcheslav Wlassoff, Ph.D., a scientific and medical consultant with experience in pharmaceutical and genetic research, took a further look into the actual presence of PTSD or C-PTSD in the brain in one of his blogs diving into neuroscience and neurology called “How Does Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Change the Brain?” “How Does Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Change the Brain?”
“Extensive neuroimaging studies on the brains of PTSD patients show that several regions differ structurally and functionally from those of healthy individuals. The amygdala, the hippocampus, and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex play a role in triggering the typical symptoms of PTSD. These regions collectively impact the stress response mechanism in humans, so that the PTSD victim, even long after their experience, continues to perceive and respond to stress differently than someone who is not suffering the aftermath of trauma.”
Though it may sound extremely complex and hard to understand due to the medical jargon, it can actually be summed up extremely well by something once said to me, “It’s like being trapped in a time capsule. Your surroundings change, but you’re forever in the state of your trauma”. That’s exactly what living with C-PTSD is like for me. Although, for the most part, my life is trauma-free, I, unfortunately, relive my childhood trauma and my adult trauma every single day, one small symptom at a time. From the less noticeable, like not being able to discern how I’m feeling or why I’m feeling a certain way, to the more extreme and common symptoms such as nightmares and flashbacks of my life’s’ timeline.
There is a completely diverse range of symptoms that affect people living with PTSD or C-PTSD each and every single day, and each person will experience different symptoms depending on their level of trauma. Some people experience very mild symptoms one day but have the potential to disassociate as a result of mental burn-out the next. Despite the fact that each individual person will experience PTSD or C-PTSD differently, the best way to offer support or help to someone you know or even a loved one who has been diagnosed with PTSD or C-PTSD won’t differ that much.
I have broken down the best ways to offer support or help to someone with PTSD or C-PTSD into a small list.
Let your them take the lead, rather than telling them what to do. Everyone with PTSD is different but most people instinctively know what makes them feel calm and safe. Take cues from them as to how you can best provide support and companionship.
Be patient. Recovery is a process that takes time and often involves setbacks. The important thing is to stay positive and maintain support for them.
A person with PTSD may need to talk about the traumatic event over and over again. This is part of the healing process, so avoid the temptation to tell your loved one to stop rehashing the past and move on.
Speak of the future and make plans. This can help counteract the common feeling among people with PTSD that their future is limited.
Take over with your own personal experiences or feelings, Invalidate, minimize, or deny their traumatic experience, Make them feel weak because they aren’t coping as well as others, or tell them they were lucky it wasn’t worse.
This is a small list of things that you can do to help ease the symptoms an individual might be experiencing, though realistically PTSD or C-PTSD is a cognitive malfunction that needs to be worked through with the help of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
So there you have it, you’ve officially learned about PTSD or C-PTSD and some really great ways to offer your support. Let me know what you think about this weeks article? Do you know someone who is living with PTSD or C-PTSD and how do you offer your support to them – Don’t forget to subscribe to our mailing list to stay updated and get notified each Monday for mental health Mondays.